Saudi Arabia's Consulate in Istanbul insisted Thursday that a missing Saudi contributor to The Washington Post left its building before disappearing, the AP reports, directly contradicting Turkish officials who say they believe the writer is still inside. The comments further deepen the mystery surrounding what happened to Jamal Khashoggi, who had been living in a self-imposed exile in the US while writing columns critical of the kingdom and its policies under upstart Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Khashoggi's disappearance also threatened to further deteriorate relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which are on opposite sides of an ongoing four-nation boycott of Qatar and other regional crises. In a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, the consulate did not challenge that Khashoggi, 59, had disappeared while on a visit to the diplomatic post.
"The consulate confirmed that it is carrying out follow-up procedures and coordination with the Turkish local authorities to uncover the circumstances of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi after he left the consulate building," the statement said, without elaborating. The statement comes after a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters Wednesday night that authorities believed the journalist was still there. "According to the information we have, this person who is a Saudi citizen is still at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul," Ibrahim Kalin said. "We don't have information to the contrary." On Tuesday, Khashoggi entered the consulate to get paperwork he needed in order to be married next week, said his fiancée Hatice. Post said it was "extremely concerned" about Khashoggi.